We left Sighişoara in the morning and headed towards Maramureş County, which is in the north of Romania. We were blessed with amazing views on our drive, which was a bit longer than we expected. In the early afternoon, we reached the first of the wooden churches we visited. The churches in this area were built of wood because Ottoman rulers wouldn’t allow them to build with long-lasting stone. However, although they were meant to last for a short while, several of them are still in existence today. Most are bare wood on the outside and the walls inside are completely covered with hand-painted murals.
The first wooden church we visited was in Ieud. This church is believed to have been built in 1364 (though there is disagreement on this and some believe it wasn’t built until the 16th century) and as such is considered the oldest wooden church in the Maramureş area. It is built of fir and is a UNESCO heritage site. Pictures weren’t allowed inside, but the inside was covered in fairly well-preserved murals covering pretty much every surface. There is also a ladder inside that is built from one large piece of wood, which is quite unique. We went inside the church to admire the murals and spent a short time walking around the cemetery that surrounds the church.
Our next stop was in Botiza. The wooden church here was built in 1699 in another site, and transferred to Botiza in 1899. It is a typical wooden church of this area, though it’s front porch is larger than normal. The murals inside were not in as good of shape as at Ieud, but still interesting.
We had planned for our next stop to be at Bârsana, but we somehow ended up at Bârsana Monastery instead of the historical church. We still enjoyed walking around Bârsana Monastery, which has a recently built wooden church as well as many wooden buildings of different purposes. There were nice views from the monastery and it was well-maintained with gorgeous gardens.
We had hoped to visit additional wooden churches, but it was late by then, so we headed on our way to Breb, where we were spending the night.
Notes and tips about visiting the Wooden Churches of Maramureş:
- You really need at least a full day if you want to see all of the main churches. We only ended up seeing two of the historic wooden churches, despite planning to see at least six of them, because we got to the area so late.
- The drive from village to village where the churches are located are very short distance-wise but take a bit of time as the speed limits are fairly slow and there are other small villages in between.
- There is a fee to enter some of the churches, but not in others. I believe it was around 10 RON at Ieud.
- Of the churches we visited, there was information posted in English, but some things were only posted in Romanian and Hungarian (I speak fluent Romanian, so I was able to translate for my parents).